A Guide to Automotive Dealership Structure

An Organizational Chart of Who Does What

Car Dealerships
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If you decide that you want to own a car dealership, it helps to understand the structure of the various departments that will typically make up your operations.

Dealerships consist of more than just a sales force working a car lot. A lot goes on behind the scenes, and after the sale as well. Here's a breakdown of the various departments that comprise a car dealership, who works there, and what they do to ensure the success of the company.

Sales Force

America is a car culture. As kids we play with toy versions or motor around in small plastic replicas. As teens, we count down the days until we can get our license and then hope mom and dad will loan us their cars—or, even better, gift us with one of our own. And buying a first car is an important rite of passage into adulthood for many people.

Savvy car dealership owners know this and pick their sales force accordingly to ensure the process is more enjoyable than it is stressful. A good car salesperson is of course well-versed in a vehicle's technical aspects. They also need to be able to "read" their potential customers and, if necessary, be prepared to give them a pitch that appeals to their emotions as well. 

Finance Department

Once the customer settles on a purchase, they'll need to figure out how to pay for it. That's where the dealership's finance department comes in. Most dealerships have several employees, known as finance managers, who help customers arrange an auto loan. Finance managers are well-versed in all aspects of car lending, so even first-time buyers with low credit scores should be able to make a deal. Depending on the needs of the customer, the finance managers are also responsible for up-selling add-ons such as rust-proofing, special paint coatings, or extra protections for interior surfaces.

Accounting and Billing

There's plenty of paperwork involved in selling a car, most of which is handled by the accounting or billing department. These folks are trained to keep track of everything from sales deals to service and repair bills. They also process all warranty claims. Those who work in accounting and billing rarely interact with customers directly (receptionists and customer-service specialists do that), so it's more important that they hone their bookkeeping, accounting, and math skills, rather than their sales savvy.

Service Department

Establishing and maintaining a service department, often referred to as the dealership's fixed operations, is crucial to a successful operation. This department consists of the technicians who perform repairs, the service advisors who assist customers and sell maintenance packages, and porters who prep just-sold vehicles for delivery. At some stores, porters also wash cars once repairs are completed. And some dealerships employ drivers to pick up and shuttle customers to and from work or home, or to shuttle customers' cars to their homes after repairs are complete. High-end dealers offer loaner cars, and employees in the service department might manage that program as well. Tied to the service department is the parts department, which stocks and sells parts and accessories for the service department and for retail sales.

Together, these various departments make up the car dealership as a whole. Those who own and operate their own lots would do well to acquaint themselves with the operations of each.